Posts from Crew blogs

Remote updates

By Cape Farewell // Friday 5 Oct // 15:33:54 // View


Sending remote website updates from Bullet’s mobile office in D’Aunay Bay.

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In the upper mess

By Vikram // Friday 5 Oct // 14:17:15 // View



Vikram Seth working in the upper mess of the Noorderlicht. (Photos: Shiro Takatini)

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A message for the youth crew

By gorm // Friday 5 Oct // 13:48:47 // 4 Comments // View

Hey Youth Team. How are you? What is it like to be home again after the Spitsbergen experience?

We’ve been thinking of you as we take the Noorderlicht on. We hear lots of stories from the crew – seems you charmed them. They enjoyed having you on the boat a lot. Dan showed me a video of you running into the sea. Ouch, how could you do that? So cold…

We had a rough journey over to Greenland, but Simon, Carol and Emily managed to test salinity and temperature at regular intervals – looking back, I can’t imagine quite how. We encountered huge amounts of sea ice as we approached East Greenland, much more than anticipated. This means that we haven’t been able to get into Scoresby Sund where we had planned to go. Instead, we’ve headed further south into the Denmark Straights and are exploring fjords south of Scoresby and North of Nansen Fjord.

This is one of the least visited areas of Greenland. We sailed into a fjord yesterday that we believe no-one has visited since 1940. As we floated there, we witnessed sea ice form within 10 minutes around us. Simon had been telling us that a very small drop in temperature can result in a sudden freeze but that he had never seen this himself – the text books come alive. Today, we bust a groove in the boat through a LOT of ice to get to a glacier front. Even close up we could hardly see the glacier front through the mist and falling snow. Ice for miles around on every side of the boat and an eery, ghostly silence. People spoke very quietly on deck. What is it about ice and snow that makes people whisper? Or is it more to do with experiencing glacial melt in this truly visceral way?

Anyway, Dan sends love and misses you all. Every time we put on your waterproofs to face the storms we see your names in pen all over them. You are with us in some way!

See you all soon,

(visit the youth voyage pages at

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Land rush

By Amy // Friday 5 Oct // 11:37:38 // View

Speaking to you from the Arctic – LAND RUSH

As we boarded the plane from London to Oslo, on sale in the airport kiosk, Time Magazine’s cover story was dedicated to the new Arctic land rush, consisting of states claims on the seabed; particularly the dropping (deployment) of a titanium flag by Russia (stiffened to fly underwater?), counterclaims, and offhand dismissals by other interested nations. It must be cheaper in some accounting to stake claims by legal loophole. Here, the chance to claim undersea ridges by means of a timely focus on appropriate segments in the Oslo Accord, rather than potentially by more costly, future displays of military posturing and police power.

It’s intriguing to be in the locus of the new undersea land rush. As we approached the coast of Greenland, it was commented on that we were now well within relatively easy reach of rescue services; 45 minutes to a day, compared to potentially 3-4 days at the midpoint of our crossing. That is the condition of the Arctic, inaccessible, but seemingly less so – especially this summer and fall.

As we sailed across the deep trench of the Greenland Sea, Simon plotted our course in pencil on a large map, by way of the water temperature sampling points taken along the transect. Looking at the map, and the relative depths of the ocean floor we were crossing, it was also notable how relatively shallow, and drillable, the North Sea is in relation. Also notable, according to the Wall Street Journal of September 21, 2007, the North Sea’s oil production peaked in 1999.

What is the near future of the Arctic system? What are the coming politics of an ice-free Arctic? In a time when we need less drilling, sea transport, and consumption of fossil fuels, the irony that the rapid loss of sea ice makes all of these easier to achieve in the Arctic is not lost. And while we lack internet access on the Noordelicht, we have had Fulmars and Little Auks to keep us company 24-7 on ice watch, flying unperturbed through Force 9 gales, unaware of the hotting up of this little travelled, but politically desirable landscape.

Note: [ Shipment FER-1346 delivered October 3, 2007 ]

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Rest, respite and precarious navigation

By Ben // Thursday 4 Oct // 21:24:07 // View

A foggy, at times rainy, day, that served largely as one of rest and respite, but one punctuated by a precarious navigation through a field thick of ice-chunks as big as double-decker busses, some-and close enough to a massive glacier’s face to see it even through thick fog.  Here, like nowhere so far on this trip, you could feel Greenland’s loss of ice.  I’ll be careful here not to imply that this is (necessarily) a volume of ice loss accelerated by global warming, but rather simply an enormous amount of ice that gives a rather startling impression of just how massive these glaciers are, how much ice they hold, and how much they dump into the sea.

By the way, we’re settled now in Barclay Bugt.  Which translates to Barclay Bay.  The last recorded voyage into the bays along this coast (according to the ship’s pilot, a guide-ish book of sorts that breaks down a bunch of info from past voyages to various areas) was 50 years back (of course, our pilot is a bit outdated as well, having been published in 1981).

Representative quote of the day:
“It’s always Christmas in the arctic.”  –Liam, with wintry wonder.

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Memory Full

By Beth // Thursday 4 Oct // 15:34:47 // View

We are on the thirteenth day of our expedition. I have been unable to communicate until now as all has been moving both literally and metaphorically. As we make slow progress south along the barren Greenland coast it seems possible to gather together some thoughts.

Our passage to Greenland was extraordinary. A necessary exorcism out of urban life to ready us for the incredible sights we were yet to see. I had decided to read Heart of Darkness, which seemed very apposite material, a kind of double whammy of darkness out there and in my head. We zipped up, buttoned up and clipped on for ice watch as we encountered lumpy unpredictable seas, variable cold winds and small bombs of ice, a pretty scary ice symphony played out against the hull. I didn’t feel that my organs were my own with my body in perpetual motion. My faculties had all been removed by the constant movement and life on a 45-degree angle. Sleep deprivation had robbed me of my mental measuring stick which led to hallucinations and feeling like I was slowly losing my mind. I was unable to think and oscillated between losing it and laughing at it. Finally when we anchored at the Greenland coast and everyone rang various parts of the world to touch base, there was much needed merriment, a good night with lots of mirth.

Our crew, Gert, Renska, Barbera and Anna have been sterling and looked after us with such patience. They work so hard to make sure all runs smoothly. Quite apart from contending with force nine gales, reeling ships and swinging sails, there is also the rewiring of circuits and fixing of loos, cooking, cleaning and washing up. It is tireless, cyclical work.

My companions are a really wonderful group of individuals. In the face of seasickness and some really frightening moments humour and sensitivity prevailed. Liam in his full-length olive thermal undies looking a little Buck Rogers and scaring the hell of out of Dallas on deck will be an everlasting memory. We barely know each other yet within two days of meeting
were throwing up in front of each other in all but our underwear!

We are passing through almost unbelievable landscape; it is awful in the true sense of the word. In the sunshine it does feel a little Disney, the icebergs are almost erotic, we name them and they become porn stars for a minute, as they impress the celluloid.

The arctic is the most sensitive place on the planet to measure climate change as it is made largely of ice. As we started our voyage out of Svalbard we stopped in a moraine strewn Fjord which should have been covered in ice and snow. The mountains newly exposed by the melt ironically looked like rusting wrecks. The ice-burgs that surround the ship carcasses of their former glory. We endured nine days at sea as the ice had locked and shut Greenland. It shouldn’t be here now, it should be much further north. Our turbulent journey around the ice to get into Greenland in itself a chilling illustration of the advance of climate change.

I am here it make a film, the end part of a trilogy of musical films that explore ideas around nationality by making notional anthems that are both aural and visual. Migration due to climate change has already begun and will continue to accelerate. I wanted to conclude my exploration of these ideas in the arctic, a place without borders, a kind of no mans land or is it? I can see from the amount of cameras on the boat that we are rapacious in our appetite for the Arctic, as am I. I realised as I am filming the sublime that I am kind of shooting an ad. The Arctic has become a product and more so as it is increasingly contested site.

On board I find a book “The place names of Svalbard”. Svalbard (the furthest point north with human occupancy) comprises of all the islands and groups of islands of which Norway acquired sovereignty by treaty in 1920. Three hundred years of exploration (from all over the word) and maps drawn under harsh conditions in many different languages resulted in many places having more than one name. This leads to utter confusion. The introduction goes on to explain, ” We had no model to work with. For no other country in the world has been the area of operation of so many nations, and no other country has been so frequently visited and thus exploited and has remained a no mans land during such a long era as Svalbard. Therefore no legitimate authority ever took care of the place names.” The purpose of the book was to establish the final place names of the region. They could be anything from the name of the person that discovered the place, to names of sentiment, or names associated with the local environment.

It strikes me as we roll on towards oblivion with nations claming land under the ice and politicians performing PR stunts on islands in dispute that we too have no model to work from. One thing is for sure that we will have to find a common language from which to tackle the most important issue of our time. Staking claims on “land” is futile in the face of a dramatically changing weather system.

As I watch the scientists take the temperature of the Gulf Stream with surprising and shocking results I am aware that in the same moment that I am both experiencing the absolute beauty of this region and witnessing it disassemble before my eyes.

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Spot the difference

By Emily // Thursday 4 Oct // 12:34:22 // 1 Comment // View

Caption competition…


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Knighton Fjord

By Cape Farewell // Thursday 4 Oct // 11:25:57 // View




Frozen, white out sailing through sea ice at the foot of Knighton Fjord. 

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